Photo of Donald Drapinski

Donald Drapinski, September 13, 1957 to August 26, 1999

In Memory and Celebration of Donald Drapinski

by Allen Harris


From the Editor: Monitor readers will remember the touching tribute to Don Drapinski from his ten-year-old niece that appeared in the July issue of the Braille Monitor. Don lost his gallant fight against muscular dystrophy on Thursday, August 26, 1999. Don was a member of the NFB of Michigan's Board of Directors for many years, and his wife Sue is the affiliate's Treasurer. Even more important, Don and Sue together were an inspiration to everyone who knew them. No one who met Don ever again doubted how much of a contribution could be made by a Federationist dogged by increasing poor health. Don's courage and commitment to the National Federation of the Blind and what it stands for will continue to inspire us all.

Allen Harris, Immediate Past President of the NFB of Michigan and Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind, wrote a eulogy which was read at Don's funeral on August 30. Here it is:


Donald, we will miss you, but you have made our lives so much richer! When I met Donald, he was a teen-ager and was just out of high school. In the summer of 1975 I was working at the Rehabilitation Institute as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Funny the things one remembers twenty-five years later--Donald was struggling with blindness and attempting to deal with his other physical problems. He made a warm and lasting impression on me. I did not know at that time that our lives would become so closely intertwined.

Donald, we will miss you, but you have made our lives so much richer! In the early '80's I became reacquainted with Donald as he began attending chapter meetings of the National Federation of the Blind. We were both in the Detroit Chapter and were having a difficult time holding things together. Before long Donald became President of the Chapter, and his leadership and strong work ethic became apparent. At that time we were struggling to maintain twenty members, but when Donald finally left the presidency in 1990, he had built the chapter to about one hundred members. He was proud and believed that the Federation could make a difference in everyone's life.

Donald did not ask others to do what he did not; he always led by example. He touched the lives of many people and inspired blind people to go for it. No matter how much Donald struggled in his own life, he never brought his difficulties to others. Truthfully, it was difficult to complain about the minor problems in our lives when Donald faced such monumental challenges. In 1990 he became First Vice President of the Detroit Chapter. His voice had become weaker, and he found it increasingly difficult to chair a meeting. However, even when Donald used Sue's voice, there was no doubt that he had prepared the ideas; he knew exactly what he wanted to say!

Donald, we will miss you, but you made our lives so much richer! Donald loved the NFB, and it became an important part of his life. He rarely missed a meeting, and if the NFB was having an activity, there you would find him. Many of you here today spent countless hours with Donald at Federation functions. In fact, if he was not present, it seemed that something was wrong. He believed that the next generation of blind children would have a better life because of the Federation.

We in the Federation are blessed to have had Donald as our friend and colleague. To know Donald was to love him. He was truly a person who gave more to others than he expected in return. Many times Sue, Joy, Donald, and I went to activities of one kind or another. We went everywhere with him! Sometimes we would decide that he should participate, and he went along with the idea. Other times he was too sick to go, but he would insist that Sue go, and he would stay alone for hours at a time. This was his way. If he could, he would participate; but if he could not, he insisted that we go without him.

Donald, we will miss you, but you made our lives so much richer! Donald, will you do one more thing for me? Will you forgive us for being less than sensitive and thoughtful about your needs? Sometimes we asked you to make significant sacrifices, and you never complained. Remember the time we took you to see Bruce Springsteen? You thought your hearing was gone. How many times did we drag you through the snow or bring you out into oppressive heat? Many times we crammed your six-foot frame onto the four-foot love seat. Remember when I served you a pint of Jim Beam as we rang in the new year? It was a good thing you had prepared by eating massive amounts of lobster and shrimp cocktail. Donald, please understand that we meant no harm!

Donald, we will miss you, but you made our lives so much richer! Donald, we cannot fully celebrate your life without acknowledging your wonderful wife, Sue. You would want a word said about Sue's dedication and commitment to your life. Many times you told me how much you loved Sue. We talked about the quality of your life, and you knew that it was because of her efforts. Sue would do anything she was capable of doing for you. You wanted everyone to know what a good life you had and that it would not have been possible without Sue.

Donald, we are deeply glad that you will not suffer any more. We are thankful that you touched our lives and that we were able to bring a little happiness to you. We have now gathered to say goodbye, but you will continue to be a part of our lives. We will remember you for the kind and gentle treatment you gave to others. We will remember you for the effort and strength you put into your life. We will remember you for having dignity in the face of pain and discomfort. We will remember you for the many wonderful qualities you possessed. But, Donald, I will remember you as a guy who loved me and let me love you in return. I am sad but not sorry that you had to go. You had done what you could on this earth, and heaven is waiting for you. Be well!

Donald, we will miss you, but you made our lives so much richer!